China’s Baidu said its Robotaxis will be cheaper to hire than cabs driven by humans within about four years.
“By the year 2025, we will cross the line, which means that the total cost of Robotaxi ride-hailing will be lower than manned-vehicle ride-hailing,’’ said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Robin Li in a conference call on the company’s second-quarter results on Thursday.
Baidu said in June that its smart-driving unit Apollo aims to cater to 3 million users in China by 2023 with a fleet of 3,000 Robotaxis. Apollo Go ride-hailing expanded into Guangzhou, its fourth city of operation, in the second quarter, providing 47,000 rides to the public, Li said, adding Baidu plans to roll out it out across 30 cities over the next 2 to 3 years.
Li aims to accelerate China’s shift to electric vehicles via its investments in Robotaxis. In June, Baidu introduced Apollo Moon, the fifth generation of Apollo Robotaxis, with a 60% drop in its cost per mile.
With labour costs rising and technological improvements and efficiency advancing, Baidu Chief Financial Officer Herman Yu suggested competition between Robotaxis and human-driven cabs is a one-way bet.
“This thing will be very interesting once you pass 2025,’’ he said. ‘’You have efficiency, technology, operational improvements, compared to labor cost.’’
At Shougang Park in Beijing, a site for the Winter Olympics next year, Baidu is already charging passengers for rides. Yu said Baidu is only the second autonomous driving car company in the world to actually have a car driving without someone at the driver’s seat.
“It’s open to the public,’’ he said. “You guys are free to come and look at how autonomous driving is being done without someone at the driver’s seat.’’
• By Kevin Hamlin